How to Manage Your Time in the Era of Virtual Gatherings

By: Aliyah Weinstein

B.C. (Before COVID-19), my weekday evenings were filled with professional networking events, which frequently gave me the opportunity to travel into Boston from my office and home in the suburbs.

On nights that I wasn’t going into the city, I’d stop for a class at the yoga studio I passed along my commute. Over the weekends, I would meet up with friends to play board games at a local brewery.

I loved my busy lifestyle and the varied opportunities that were a part of each week. Translating these real-life interactions to virtual formats was a major focus of so many soon after the stay-at-home orders began.

Soon, it all became overwhelming. Not only did my local friends replace our weekly meet-ups with virtual ones, but friends and family in other parts of the country — who I wouldn’t have seen during those months under typical circumstances — also wanted to connect.

Webinars became a more frequent offering as organizers realized that online programming could reach people around the world. Fitness studios began to have their teachers live-stream classes from home, and I could suddenly access classes being taught by instructors I love in other cities.

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I like to stay busy, but I found myself getting headaches and leg cramps from spending so much time sitting in front of my computer. One week in April, I tallied nearly twenty hours of virtual events, on top of all of the meetings that come as part of working remotely!

I began to think: Was attending so many events from behind a screen really the variety I craved?

As month five of the pandemic closes in, I’m reevaluating how much time I am spending in front of a screen. There’s a balance to be struck between maintaining connections with people and maintaining balance in my life.

I now think of virtual gatherings as replacements for their live counterparts, and try to keep the time I spend attending virtual events similar to the time I would have attended in-person events in a given week. And I’ve continued to keep up with friends and family in other cities with whom I’d already chat virtually.

This has allowed me to keep a calendar that most closely mimics my B.C. lifestyle — with more screen time than five months ago, but not more than it takes for me to maintain my preferred level of professional and personal connections.

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Some weeks this is certainly a challenge. How to choose?!

Since virtual events have now been standard for several months, I first prioritize my options based on my previous experience with virtual events led by the hosting organization. I personally prefer events with a well-done interactive component, so this means prioritizing networking and social events or webinars with a dynamic Q&A portion advertised.

Luckily, many online events are recorded and made available to watch at a later date. When it’s too hard to decline some opportunities, I use this option so that I can “reschedule” them to a future week. I also take an overall look at all the events I’ve committed to each week and try to maintain a balance between professional gatherings and personal ones.

There are many positive aspects of this transition to virtual events, and many challenges for those of us newly adapting to them, as well. It’s apparent that virtual everything will be our primary option for connecting with others for the foreseeable future, and will stick around even when we are allowed to gather in-person.

In order to maintain balance in our lives, we each must establish our own personal boundaries for making online gatherings fit into our lives without overwhelming them.

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Aliyah Weinstein has a PhD in cancer immunology from the University of Pittsburgh and experience in science writing, outreach, and brand management. She works as the Marketing and Communications Manager at Addgene, a life sciences nonprofit, and as a freelance science writer. She is passionate about inclusion in STEM and volunteers as an Advisory Board member for the STEM education nonprofit, Letters to a Pre-Scientist.

Originally published at https://www.ellevatenetwork.com.

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